The horsemeat scandal is entirely that, but perhaps not entirely unexpected. Many will have been horrified to have learnt of the journey the meat goes on, and how easy it is to hand of responsibility.
Of course the winners, hopefully, out of this are local butchers and producers, and indeed many have reported increases in sales in recent weeks. I also had a conversation on Twitter about how people might actually feel nervous about going to the butchers, because they are not in the habit of going and don’t know what to expect, or that it looks too scary compared to all those prepacked trays. Top thoughts on fears were:
1. Not knowing how much things would cost. People are used to buying by price not necessarily by weight, but especially in these austere times budget is vital. Never underestimate how embarrassing it may be to end up with something you can’t afford, and therefore how much of a barrier to purchase that is.
2. Not knowing what all the meat is and how to cook it
Both of which feel like they could easily be overcome if people talked to their butcher. But again, that’s going to be very alien compared to the usual supermarket experience of no human interaction until the checkout. So what would I do if I was running a butcher’s shop?
1. I’d take a leaf out of the supermarkets book and show the cost of some items or cuts, so people had an idea ahead of asking for something what it was likely to cost. Of course the legal bit is about the price per kilo or pound, but this is the customer bit. Put the price on a pork chop, a piece of silverside, and show what half a kilo of mince looks like.
2. Label it with the cut and a suggestion on how to cook it, particularly for things like beef skirt or blade of beef, where people are likely to be less familiar with these cuts.
3. Make suggestions for things they could swap to in order to save money or just have something a bit different. This might help people to broaden their repertoire of meat they eat, and if you save them money they will remember. Whilst it might feel like short term loss of income, if it works for them then what you might get instead is a repeat customer. A blade of beef every week must be better than a one off fillet steak sale.
4. Run “get to know your butcher” sessions where you could talk through all the above to small groups of customers.
5. Find a friendly local chef to come in and demo some of the more unusual cuts, or at least create some recipes for you. Or share your favourites. Or get your customers to share their favourites.
6. Am hoping that the butchers are already connecting with their local and online communities and making the most of every opportunity to talk about their good stuff!
Of course, it needs us as customers to get out of the supermarket habit, but there are very clear benefits to doing so, but there is also a lot that butchers can do to help everyone to get back into the butcher shop habit. For me, I’m going to start using Harker’s Farm Shop at Clipston on the Wolds, fantastic selection of meat, locally reared, great traceability.
What are you doing differentlyif anything since this latest scandal broke? Have you changed your shopping, or eating habits? It’s National Butcher’s week from tomorrow, so let’s make the effort to show the butchers that we can change our habits, perhaps they can meet us halfway.
Photo by Wurzeltod on Flickr, taken at the Museum of Childhood.
When I posted the link to this on Twitter this morning @MoreMangeTout pointed out an obvious thing I’d missed that butchers could do. The one advantage that many supermarkets have is being open when customers are around to shop. A thing which is entirely within the shop’s gift to change. But it would be a massive change for many. They need to think about when most people are around, which is going to mean later nights, Saturday and Sunday. Supermarkets are a seven day operation, I guess all small shopkeepers need to work out what they are.